What Does It Mean to be a “Global” Text? The Example of Frankenstein

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Using Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and its legacies as a case study, this talk develops a theory of the “global text”—a single text or writer's oeuvre that has become a monument of culture and a focal point for shared cultural heritages, past, present, and future.

The conceptual framework poses three sets of questions: different sets of questions: 1) In what ways was the text or oeuvre “global” in its own day, adopting a “worldly” approach that transcends its particular locale? 2) How does the history of the publication, criticism, and (where applicable) the performance of the text or oeuvre transform it into a global cultural commodity? 3) What is the cultural legacy of the text or oeuvre today throughout a variety of global media forms, including plays, films, novels, operas, and works of visual art?

This framework synthesizes and extends a variety of different approaches to literary scholarship, including close reading, influence study, reader-response theory, literary historiography, history-of-the-book analysis, translation studies, materialist approaches, cultural studies, and world literature theory.

The talk will explore how Shelley positions her novel as a global text by drawing on classical Greek mythology, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and contemporary scientific debates about “vitalism.” Touching on a number of narrative responses to the novel—including James Whale’s 1931 film adaptation and the recent novels Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan and FranKissStein by Jeannette Winterson, the paper will conclude by focusing on two Arabic appropriations of Shelley’s story: the 1954 film Ismail Yassin Meets Frankenstein (Haram Alek) and Ahmed Saadawi’s 2014 novel Frankenstein in Baghdad.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StateUnpublished - Feb 7 2020
EventFourth International Conference on Language, Linguistics, Literature and Translation: Exploring Cultural Intersections - Sultan Qaboos University, , Muscat, Oman
Duration: Feb 6 2020Feb 7 2020


ConferenceFourth International Conference on Language, Linguistics, Literature and Translation


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